Career Advancement

The New York Times ran another article on Sunday regarding the dearth of women bosses in Fortune 500 companies.  The article covered familiar ground- lack of visible women corporate leaders, lack of women on company boards, women trying to balance work and family, etc.

So what’s my beef? I’m glad the NYT is keeping the discussion going of the inequities in the workplace between women and men.  But what I’m not seeing a lot of are stories about working moms like ME. Where are the stories of those in the middle of the management heap?  The regular “moms” trying to get ahead?

Come on reporters- play to the masses! Give us something to relate to!

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After reading a recent article in The Wall Street Journal about kids who feel “orphaned” by their parents’ BlackBerries, I determined that I too, was putting my son at risk with my BlackBerry-ing behaviors.  But I am not orphaning my son by using my BlackBerry.  Rather, I believe I suffer from a case of BlackBerry-itis.  It’s a sickness that is long-term in nature and very hard to cure. 

BlackBerry-itis can be defined as “an unnatural and obsessive addiction to checking one’s BlackBerry.”  There are many strains of BlackBerry-itis.  Type M (the obsessive need to check one’s BlackBerry during Meetings), Type PT (the addiction to checking one’s BlackBerry on Public Transportation, and the most severe form, the type I suffer from, Type F (when checking one’s BlackBerry interferes with Familial duties).

Unfortunately, Type F is hard to discern, since many observers of the disease are children not of speaking age.  And, the sickness is subtle at first.  It may start with a casual checking of the BlackBerry when you wake up in the morning before you get baby out of the crib.  But full-blown BlackBerry-itis Type F is hard to miss.

Here are some of the key indicators:

r     You check your BlackBerry even when your child is in the highchair screaming bloody murder for his food.
r     You bring your BlackBerry into bed with you in the morning and email instead of cuddling with your child.
r     You find that your thumbs are too sore to play with your baby’s blocks.
r     You bring the BlackBerry to mom/baby classes and check it immediately when class is over.
r     You’d rather sit at your counter and “BlackBerry” than sit on your floor and play with your child.
r     Your mother actually knows what the device is, and expresses her disdain for it.

However problematic BlackBerry-itis can be there are some little-known cures:
r     Husband threatens to “throw that thing in Lake Michigan or other large body of water” if he sees the BlackBerry in the bedroom one more time.
r     People at work send you nasty emails telling you to stop emailing on your day off.
r     Email servers at work go down, making the BlackBerry non-functioning (note: this is only a temporary cure until the servers are restored).
r     You leave BlackBerry on different floor of your house so that you are too lazy to walk upstairs and get it.
Unfortunately, I’ve tried all of the remedies above to no avail.  After trying to cure my illness, I think that the best solution for BlackBerry-itis is not having a BlackBerry at all.  But I don’t think I’m quite ready to try that solution yet.   

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Check out The Juggle, a new blog by Wall Street Journal columnist Sara Schaefer Munoz.  (I’m not 100% sold on the name, but it might grow on me.) “The Juggle” aims to discuss all the issues that pertain to the modern family- stress of finding the right caregiver, trying to finish your neverending “to do” list, and managing to do your actual day job – all at the same time.

I liked what I read at first, especially about fake workplace productivity problems  (for those who care, I suffer from PCAST with a small case of my own diagnosis,”Nannyitis“).  And I’m totally glad to see another mainstream paper getting on the blogosphere bandwagon.  Guess I’ll add it to my Feeds… how will I ever “Juggle” all the stuff I have to read!?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, new mothers are dropping out of the workforce at a higher rate.  According to the data, the percentage of married mothers of infants in the workforce dropped from 59 percent in 1997 to 51 percent in 2004.  Reasons cited for the drop include mothers wanting to nurture their children during the first year, and the increase of childcare.

Not suprisingly, other reasons cited are workplace related- not enough flexible return-to-work options, or lack of extended maternity leave.  Heck, read this story and you’ll see why us moms are tentative about returning to work.

Point is, as I’ve said before – if you lose moms in the workforce, you’ll lose employees who have stamina, the ability to multitask like nobody’s business and who can cope with long, tiring hours.  Employers – it pays to keep your moms coming back to work!

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 This may sound contrary to some of my recent rants on new celebrity moms, and I’ll probably take some flack for this post, but I can sympathize with Gwen Stefani.*  Her newest album, “The Sweet Escape” is reviewed in the December 4 New York Times, and well, the review ain’t that sweet. 

The critic, Jon Pareles, sets out to show that Stefani, after having her son
Kingston earlier this year, is a “hit making star and a new mother who only represents herself.”  One would usually think this would be a word of praise – a woman who’s found herself being a mom.  Not so much.  According to the critic, Stefani’s new album “repeats some of the old tricks with less flair.”  He goes on to say on the album she’s “either complaining or apologizing.”  Let’s just say the last word of the review is “whiny.”


Sound familiar? It does to me. Considering I’ve only been back to work 4 months since my son was born I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve apologized for not remembering what the latest industry “buzzword” is, complained about my poor- performing nanny or whined about how early my son gets up in the morning when I have to be “on” in the office all day.  Going back to work after baby is hard.  It’s all I can do to “repeat the old tricks” I remember from when I worked before I had baby.  I try to do it with more flair, but sometimes I fail. 


So why isn’t Stefani allowed to express her new mom frustrations through her music?  Does it make her music bad?  Can a man who’s never birthed a child adequately critique the tone and content of music of a new mother? I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer these questions since I’m not a music critic (clearly), but I’m pretty impressed that she was able to even put out an album a mere 6 months since her son was born.  So while Pareles may think Stefani’s latest album sounds “forced and secondhand,” she’s getting kudos from this new mom. You go Gwen!



* If you are wondering why all of a sudden I did an about face on this celeb-mom, I do think there is a distinct difference in between a NEW mom trying to make a comeback after her FIRST baby (Stefani) vs. an experienced mom changing gears in her career (Couric).  Maybe I’ll see it differently when my son is older.

If you’re a working mom, you’ve no doubt seen countless descriptions for jobs.  My colleague sent me this one – a job description for a mom.  I thought it was hilarious.  It’s the best job you could get, if you ask me!

Sometimes you just can’t make it out the door to get to work.  Your nanny just got in a car accident and can’t make it to your house (true story), you’ve wasted half your day at the doctor’s office waiting for an appointment for your child (true story), or your kid is too sick and needs the TLC only a mother can provide (yes, true story).  Something unplanned comes up and your child care plans for the day are thrown out the window.  There’s nothing you can do but try to “WAH” (if you dare).  We’ve all been there and know how hard it is.

That’s why I’m going to start advocating for “kid” days.  I think employers should consider providing working parents with a couple of days a year (they can be accrued over time, if necessary) to deal with the inevitable kid-related issue that prevents you from getting out of your house in the morning.  If you’re like me, and have used up all of your sick days on maternity leave, you dread the day that you can’t come into work because of an ill-timed child emergency. 

Why should we have to use a “vacation” day for these emergencies?  Staying at home with a sick child does not sound like a vacation to me.  Why should I use an “optional” day either?  If I had the “option,” I’d be at work! 

I’m not trying to whine… I know that as parents, we are supposed to build up reserves to deal with the unplanned.  But stuff happens that is out of our control, and I think a lot of parents (at least ones that I know) would be very relieved to know that they had a couple of “kid” days saved up in the time off bank. 

I could be persuaded to advocate for “pet” days too… if only my husband would let me get that dog…

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